Villepin shows stubborn streak in GDF merger

16th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 16, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Friday he would press with plans for state-controlled gas company Gaz de France (GDF) to be absorbed by Suez, an energy and utilities group, despite strong opposition within his own party.

PARIS, June 16, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Friday he would press with plans for state-controlled gas company Gaz de France (GDF) to be absorbed by Suez, an energy and utilities group, despite strong opposition within his own party.

Saying he was "determined to move forward" on the matter, Villepin added however that it was time for "realism, determination and at the same time, to take care to confer" with those involved in the process.

He was responding to a report in the French daily Le Monde that said the project to partially privatise GDF, a necessary step before the deal could take place, might be shelved.

The government revealed a plan in February for GDF to be absorbed, and therefore privatised, by Suez after it emerged that the Italian energy goup Enel was poised to make a hostile bid for Suez.

The Suez-GDF deal, which would create the fourth-biggest energy company in the world, was widely seen as a way of making Suez too big for Enel to swallow, although Suez and GDF said they had been working on the plan for some time.

But deputies from de Villepin's governing UMP party have joined Socialists and others who are hostile to the plan, saying they want to protect consumers from price rises that would likely follow a privatisation of GDF.

A source close to the government said Friday that "it was useless to try and push through" a deal.

Villepin's government has suffered several major setbacks in the past six months, and the next French presidential election is less than a year away.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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